Monopolies Commission (UK)

Updated: Aug 20, 2021

A commission set up by the Monopolies and Restrictive Practices (Inquiry and Control) Act of 1948. Under this Act, the commission was given the necessary powers to obtain any information it needed to investigate monopolies referred to it by the Board of Trade. Monopoly was defined in a broad way to include any firm which controlled more than one-third of the market, and the commission was required to judge them in the light of the public interest. The commission’s report in 1955, Collective Discrimination – A Report on Exclusive Dealing, Aggregated Rebates and other Discriminatory Trade Practices, was the basis for the Restrictive Trade Practises Act of 1956, which set up a register for collective agreements and a Restrictive Practices Court. The commission’s powers were widened by the Monopolies and Mergers Act of 1965. Mergers between firms in a monopoly situation or involving assets exceeding £5 million could in future be referred to the commission by the Board of Trade (later the Department of Trade and Industry) and also firms in the service industries which had previously been exempt. The Acts of 1948 and 1965 were repealed by the Fair Trading Act of 1973. Under the latter, the commission became the ‘Monopolies and Mergers Commission’ and the Director General of Fair Trading was empowered to make references, in addition to the Minister. The powers of the Office of Fair Trading were widened by the Competition Act (1980). As a consequence, any activity considered by the O.F.T. to be anti-competitive could be referred to the commission.

Reference: The Penguin Dictionary of Economics, 3rd edt.

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